Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.


Your report is going to the senior management team or the board. They'll be discussing it at their meeting.

Wow. Heavy stuff. You want to show that you are taking the topic seriously. You'd like them to know that you are a serious thinker too.

Could you be captured by the drama of the occasion? Could you be tempted to write in lofty language as if addressing the nation?

The tone might be like this extract from a report to a council:

'The unit has been through a supply chain optimisation process aimed at achieving operational effectiveness through the rationalisation of maintenance contracts.'

That one made it to our local newspaper - because the reporter thought it was funny. Were you impressed? Did you take it all in, or did you skim? (I think the writer meant the unit had been reviewing its contracts with suppliers so that it could operate more efficiently.)

Most people skim when we use fancy, dry, academic language intended to dress up a simple message. Try reading your report aloud. Would you really use the same language in conversation?

Hekia Parata and eduspeak

The minister of education, Hekia Parata, talks of 'maintaining educational provision'. I assume that means keeping enough schools open. She's going through a serious bout of eduspeak. Eduspeak shares the characteristics of other lofty language: dry, academic-sounding, noun-based, impersonal and not the slightest bit impressive. I can point you to research revealling that most people judge writers who use that kind of lanugage to be less intelligent and less persuasive, not more.

How dramatic is the occasion?

The formality of your language should match the occasion. It's like getting dressed up for a wedding. Even so, let's not overdress our writing.

Imagine you are explaining the contents of your report to the senior management team at their meeting. If it's a formal meeting, make your language slightly more formal than a conversation with a colleague in the staffroom. Aim to impress them with your ideas, not the words you know.

Take care. The drama of the occasion must be from the readers' perspective, not ours.


About Ralph Brown

ralph brown blog3

Ralph is our founder and managing director. He has a background in psychology, television journalism and business.

Ralph's passions are psychology and writing. He leads workshops on both and speaks to conferences on the psychology of thriving at work.

In 2011  Professional Speakers Australia awarded him its top speaking accreditation, the CSP.

He has written six books and more than a hundred articles on psychology and writing. International research journals have published his articles reviewing the research on resilience.

Ralph enjoys trips to France. He lives in rural Canterbury.

Interested in training in business writing?

A business writing workshop will give your team far more than just plain English. They’ll be achieving more clarity in less time. Through their emails and letters, they’ll be building cooperative relationships with their colleagues, customers and community.

Learn more

Interested in training to develop your teams’ resilience?

Discover what top achievers do when the going gets tough.

Learn more